James Madison University

I Want a Turbine

There are many people that would like to put a wind turbine at their home for a variety of reasons. Whether its energy independence from an electricity provider, environmental awareness, or a back-up supply of energy in case the power goes out, installing a wind turbine at a residence is a big decision. There are a number of factors that should be considered when thinking about installing a turbine at your house, business, or farm. The simple checklist below will help guide you to see what size turbine (if any) is right for your wind resource and your personal goals.

Simple Checklist:

  • What is the purpose of this wind turbine? What do you want to power? Your whole house, just the garage, the barn?
    • Your electricity goals and what you want it to power will determine the size turbine that will be best suited for your home, business, or farm.
  • Look at your electric bill – how much electricity do you use?
    • This also will inform the size turbine that will best suit your needs.
  • Electricity conservation and efficiency – do all you can to use less!
    • One of the first things you should do if you are considering installing a wind turbine (or solar PV/hot water) is look at how energy efficient you are. The less energy you consume, the larger the impact the turbine or solar panels will have on your overall electricity consumption.
  • Measure the wind – understand how windy it is at your location to know if wind turbine will be able to do what you want it to do
    • You may want to power your whole house and your electric car but if you don’t have a good wind resource, a larger turbine isn’t going to spin as often and produce the amount of electricity you want. It is very important to size a turbine appropriately to the wind resource to ensure that you are getting the max power available, but also that you don’t oversize your system, because it won’t operate optimally. If you are interested in measuring your wind resource, we can help get you more information.
  • Talk to your local zoning and planning boards to understand how (or if) you can permit your project
    • Each county or independent city likely has independent regulations for various scales of wind turbines. Check with your local officials to see what steps are needed in order for you to install a wind turbine. There may be setback or height guidelines- if your locality has restrictions against a wind turbine, a special use permit may be for you.
  • Talk to your electricity provider about interconnection and net metering
    • Net metering occurs when you are connected to a public-utility power grid and any surplus power produced is transferred onto the grid. If you generate more than you use on sight, you will receive a credit on your electricity bill. In Virginia, the net metering rule is typically a 1-1 ratio; for every one kWh surplus that goes into the grid, you will receive a 1kWh credit on your electricity bill. Not all electricity providers in Virginia are required to net meter, but many do. Generally the smaller utilities including municipalities or cooperatives have the option to net meter.
  • Research local, state and federal incentives and grants to help defray the cost
    • Visit the DSIRE website to see what credits and rebates you may be eligible for. Sometimes these incentives will mean the difference between a project that is feasible and one that isn’t.
  • Find an installer that you trust to help you choose the turbine for you and install it at a reasonable cost.
    • If you are unsure of a particular turbine manufacturer or an installer, contact us and we can provide suggestions for you.

The final words of advice are match your turbine as best you can to your:

  1. Energy needs
  2. Wind Speeds
  3. Budget